I'm Nuts about Nuts! And why you should be too

If you are a healthy vegan or raw foodie, you probably do not need advice regarding increasing your hearthy (heart healthy), good-fatty nuts intake. I sure know I do not! I can’t really recall when I started my manic-obsessive affair with nuts, I can just say for certain I did not grow up eating, shopping, chopping them like I do now.

Delicious nut and fruit balls are my favorite go-to raw preparation - Almond Apple balls for example.

My first great leap to Nuttyland was the discovery of nut butters. Discovery, you wonder? Well, yes! Croatians, even Europeans in general, do not grow up devouring PB&J sandwiches/cookies/bars/pancakes/ice-cream/smoothies/chewing gum (I’m sure I forgot something, edible panties maybe?). As unbelievable as it seems, I seriously disliked PB at first. For most kids, me very much included, the first experience of peanut butter (still going strong as the most common nut butter) was very… sticky. Like my tongue is unpleasantly glued to my palate sticky. Like my puppy is chocking on the peanut butter cause he doesn’t know how to swallow it sticky. Ah, Lunjo… I’m sorry you had to share in all of my childhood experiences, but how else would the world know we were soul-mates (yes, soul – I’m vegan for a reason!). He was so lovable, yet the most fickle dalmatian. I wish I had a (digital) picture to share. Everyone from our neighbors to the local radio station regularly reported his mischiefs. His volatile behavior did not come from his freckles (fickle – freckle, does it pass for a joke?), it actually came from his name – Lunjo stands for Tramp, as in Lady and the Tramp.

I digress… Nostalgia is in the air! I guess, even though I wasn’t a fan of PB as a kid, just talking about it somehow does bring out sweet childhood memories. I am sure that’s what it was designed to do, don’t you agree?! It is the perfect scheme… No wonder its insanely addictive! Throws a new light on the term emotional eating, too.

 

Back to my original thought. Little did I know that the specialty store treat my mom used to choke on while I watched in disbelief, would eventually prove to be a delicatesse for my, now aged, palate (another proof women do turn into their mothers). The fact that I do not have much taste for peanuts lead me to even greater discovery – you can basically blend _any _nut into a butter!

Have you ever had the pleasure, nah, privilege, of savoring macadamia nut butter? You simply must. I adore macadamia on its own, have enjoyed them un-raw (pshhh!) and roasted in everything from salt to caramel to my personal favorite, Hawaiian coffee (on the Islands, never the less). I tell you, being the most calorie dense and fatty nut must count for something, after all. If you think your fave maple almond butter delivers the finest in rich and concentrated flavor, that perfect blend of sweet and salty nuttiness, as it slowly melts on the back of your throat, urging you to reach for another heaping spoonful before you even swallowed the first one… well think again! Macadamia nut butter was a whole new level of its-so-creamy-I’m-burning-with-guilt pleasure.

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*Interesting side note – do not feed macademia to your puppies. They are poisonous for dogs!

It is rare to find macadamia blended alone, it usually comes combined, not only for its strong flavor, but its steep price as well. Cashew butter is of similar texture, thus it combines well with the royally rich macademia. These days, you can find all sorts of creative combinations of nut and seed butters in your local WF or health store. Extra protein, omega-3, or just plain yumminess, are some of the most common benefits of precise combination of ingredients.

Almond comes in the close second as the most popular nut to be made into a butter, specially among the health-savvy. You can get them chunky, creamy, flavored with chocolate, honey, maple. PB received some serious competition the day our forefathers realized almond butter is considerably more beneficial, while just as tasty (depending on the personal preference, even tastier).

Cashews serve as a great base for both sweet and salty and sour preparations, it also doubles as cheese, specially if combined with nutritional yeast and some zest. Hazelnut and coconut butters both deserve an honorary mention in the hall of Absolutely Dreamy flavor.

You can use cashews to replace creamy bases - dressings, sweets, even cheeses. This is one of my favorite delicious treats, Coconut Cashew Raspberry cream.

As I progressed on my journey from ethically enlivened vegetarian, to realistically conscious vegan, ending in truly back-to-basics raw foodie, the usage of nuts in my diet increased correspondingly. At first, they served as a texture blast in my fruit and veggie salads and stir-fries. We all know they are reliable as any-time-any-place snacks. If we count in soy as a nut (its actually a legume, just like peanut), most of my protein resource was covered by nuts as soon as I said au revoir to Bree and Parmesan. But going raw – basically anything that ever had texture, strong flavor and was able to fill me up properly, is now being replaced by nuts and seeds.

Breads and cookies, tofu and seitan, desserts, sauces and dressings, are all being re-invented, and the only reliable raw candidate are nuts, seeds and sprout-able grains and legumes. Considering the latter require some thought and planning, nuts and seeds are my everyday easy recipe staple.

So, while I read nutritional advice on how and why to increase your healthy nut intake, I personally wonder the opposite – how do I tame my dependence on them?

Have you experienced similar obstacles on the path to your ideal diet?

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